Category Archives: Uncategorized

Return from Conference

  Jennifer Stern fitting lecture ASG conference 2011










Well, I am physically (if not exactly mentally) back from my very first ASG Conference. It was really, really, REALLY great. I took an all-day jeans fitting workshop with Jennifer Stern last Thursday (pictured above), and then Friday thru Sunday I took 3 workshops each and every day. What a great collection of instructors and sewing nerds! It was just as informative and fun to talk with women from all around the country as it was to hear what the teachers shared in ther lectures and demos.

I think my favorite class turned out to be Susan Lazear’s Working with Your Pattterns for Fit and Creativity. I switched into this class on Sunday at the last minute, and boy am I glad I did. Susan is AWESOME. She owns Cochenille Design Studio, and developed a nifty software program titled Garment Designer to help women with fit and styling issues. I really dug her logical, analytical approach to improving fit using commmercial patterns, and hope to be implementing some changes in my processes based on her recommendations. 

So now it is back to dishes, toilets, cooking, and taking care of the pooch. Ah well, LA was great while it lasted, and you will be hearing more (much more!) on this subject very soon.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Leaving on a jet plane…

…tomorrow morning for the ASG conference in Los Angeles. Time permitting, I will try to post about the fun classes I am taking and the awesome sewing nerds I hope to meet. Until I return on the 22nd, the blog may be a little quiet.

Here is a little eye candy for the next week – my very own Rocketeer! Saaaaaa-weeeeeeeeeeeet!

Singer 500, also known as the Rockeeter. Bet you are SO jealous!
Happy sewing!
Maris Olsen

Heading south soon

ASG 2011 Conference







 In just a few days I will be heading to Los Angeles for my first ever American Sewing Guild Conference. This is where all the REALLY BIG sewing nerds collect once a year to take classes and geek out on all things sewing. Right up my alley!

The two classes I am most excited about are the all-day Jeans Fitting workshop taught by Jennifer Haseman (aka Jennifer Stern on, and her Professional Techniques for Jeans Construction session which should add the icing to my jeans-making. Eeeck! Total geek out! Like everyone else, I love wearing jeans, and am always looking for ways to improve fitting and construction techniques for myself and my students. 

I am also totally pumped about the session on men’s sportswear. There is not much out there about sewing for men, and it should be fun to learn a few more techniques for the man men in my life. Other classes on my agenda include Fibers and Fabrics (might get to burn stuff!), some seam and hem finish workshops, a bit o’ Vintage Inspiration, making purses with “professional flair”, and how to work with sheer fabrics.  Nothing but fun times ahead for me. A couple of days of vaca with my DH before deep immersion into all things sewing. Heaven!

Now to try to get a few garments ready to wear so I don’t embarrass myself in front of my fellow sewing nerds…

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

July Pattern sale alert!

Wheeee! If you are in the market for new patterns, now is the time to collect a few. Today (July 28th in case you are calendar-challenged) thru July 31st all McCalls and Butterick patterns are on sale for $2.99 and Vogue patterns are only $3.99! These prices are for online sales only, and it does take a few days for them to arrive, but I love it when I can score (especially) Vogue patterns for $3.99. You can bet I will be adding some of the new fall collection patterns I admired earlier to my stash.

If you haven’t done so already, be sure to sign up for the McCalls/Butterick/Vogue newsletter and you will receive an email directly from them about future sales. No need to sign up on all three sites – they are owned by the same company so signing up for any one of them alerts you to sales about all three brands. 

Happy sewing, and pattern-collecting!

Maris Olsen

Maternity mania












I admit it. I am going a little nuts. Well, I am perfectly entitled since my eldest DD is pregnant with my FIRST GRANDCHILD! And it’s a girl! I am holding back (momentarily) on making baby clothes so I can concentrate on getting a few maternity outfits made for said DD. She lives in New York, and in case you missed the news lately, it has been wicked hot back east.

ANYWAY….the patterns are pretty awful for maternity clothes, so I have been trying to spice things up a little for her.  She is a freelance photographer, so she doesn’t need a wardrobe of office appropriate clothing. Instead, she mostly needs comfy clothes to work from home, with a few “client suitable” ensembles. I think this blue and green plaid sleeveless top looks pretty darn cute with blue, green, yellow and cream binding and red piping detail. What do you think? 












Back when I was pregnant with same DD, my favorite maternity clothes were made by Japanese Weekend. I especially loved their knit pants, which had a wide elastic band that went UNDER the baby bump, and they were super comfortable. Of course, no such pattern exists, so I made an attempt to copy that styling on these white stretch denim shorts. There was no pregnant mama here for fittings, so there was some serious winging it going on, but at least they look like they theoretically could fit her! 😉









Awww, somebody else in the family wanted to be featured in the blog today. Or at least couldn’t be bothered to get out of the shot!












Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen




Get some balance

Hey, have you ever adjusted the balance on your sewing machine? Maybe I should ask, do you know WHERE the balance adjustment setting is on your machine? OK, do you even HAVE a balance adjustment on your machine? 🙂 I never had used mine, before today anyway. I was trying to emulate the heavier topstitching look that you get in RTW by using the triple stitch on my 1260 Bernina. I had jeans thread in the top, regular poly in the bobbin, and was running some samples with various stitch lengths. The stitch was a little wonky because the needle was not striking in exactly the same spot every time. Thank goodness I mentioned my problem to Mary at Sewing Machine Service, because she had the answer for me. The balance setting! Adjusting the balance setting allows you to make micro-adjustments to the stitch length, and that was all it took. Brilliant!

Take a look at these different samples. Here is my first attempt. I used the longest stitch length, and clicked my “negative balance” button twice. Bleah. Not good. 

Topstitching sample1











 The second sample was not much better. Ummm, maybe worse. I kept the stitch length the same, but changed my balance setting so it was only a single “minus” click away from normal. 

Topstitching sample 2











Still not right. Attempt number 3. This time I shortened the stitch length. Ahhh, getting better.

Topstitching sample3











And ladies and gentlement, here is the winning sample! A stitch length of 3.5 and a single “minus” click on the balance setting and I think it looks pretty darn good. Definitely looks much more like RTW jeans topstitching than a plain single stitch. Sheesh, that took some experimentation, but I LIKE it!











Now I guess I have to make a pair of jeans to use my new knowledge. 🙂

Happy sewing!


Great fall from Vogue

After the very disappointing designs from McCalls, I am thrilled with the fresh, interesting patterns from Vogue for this fall. I have included a few of my favorites below, but be sure to visit your local fabric store to see the entire catalogue, or browse online in the New Collection Preview. I could have shown you lots more that I like, but I wanted to save a few surprises for you when you browse the full collection yourself. Enjoy!

I might not be the correct age range for this one, but definitely love, love, love!



Ohhh, I gotta make this one. I LOVE the collar and the wide bateau neckline.  Sooooo flattering!


 It is not very visible in this print fabric, but the lines on this dress are gorgeous. And love the sleeve zips!


Ultra wearable. Depending on the fabric this could go from office to evening in a blink.


I know I should be over ruffles by now, but what a pretty, feminine blouse.


Wow – even a new man’s shirt!


Ten reasons why I sew

I love lists. I like to make ’em, and I like to read ’em too. So I made a list of some really good reasons why I love sewing. It probably doesn’t capture everything I feel on every day, but it’s a good start:  

  1. I create actual “things”. Sometimes they are useful. Sometimes they are pur-tay. Sometimes both!
  2. I get to operate really cool power tools.
  3. Petting is involved. Actually even encouraged. (Hint: head into your LFS and touch, fondle, and pet any and all bolts of fabrics. Twice.)
  4. My wardrobe is uniquely mine. I never arrive at an event wearing the same dress as anyone else.
  5. I love saying “I made it myself!”. I possibly love hearing “My wife made this shirt” even a little more! 😉
  6. I get to play with color. And texture. Pattern and design lines, too. It’s called “making art”.
  7. I use my whole brain. I do math, draw pattern and design lines, test out color combinations, solve construction problems, adjust fit, and lots more on most garments. 
  8. I learn new stuff – really often. Maybe not on every garment, but almost!
  9. I get to go on sewing retreats with other sewing nerds. We drink wine together too! 🙂
  10. Sometimes I get to make important garments for people I love. Like christening gowns, or wedding dresses, or prom dresses. And then the memory of that special celebration is even richer. 

What about you? What would your list look like?

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Dare to repair?

Have you ever attempted a sewing machine repair at home? Not me! I love my mechanics and am very happy to turn over the complex repair/tune-up process to them. I double-heart all my sewing machines (yes, I do have, errrr, more than one!), and I take a lot of pride in the fact that my oldest machine (36 years) still runs like a top. There is about nothing more frustrating to me than sitting down to use a machine, sewing or otherwise, and have it not work properly. Ask anyone in my family – they have all witnessed a few (more than a few?) explosions over the years when some @&^%$# machine was malfunctioning.

I do own mostly Berninas, which are very well-made , but I also make it a point to take extremely good care of all my machines. They get an annual check-up, same as me.  I am worth some preventative maintenance, and so are they. I believe that finding a great dealer/repair shop is an important part of keeping a sewing machine in top running order. Just as you have to put some time, effort, and money into maintaining your car, the same goes for your sewing machine if you expect it to perform for you.

Here are some tips to help you find a great repair shop/dealer in your area:

  1. Ask around.  If you are lucky enough to live in a place where sewing is still taught in schools, find out who maintains the sewing machines for your local school district.
  2. Contact your local chapter of ASG – the American Sewing Guild. You will find lots of passionate sewing nerds with opinions about dealerships in this group! 🙂
  3. Go talk to the dealers yourself. You will be establishing a relationship with this dealership, so find out if you like how they treat you. Do they always provide estimates? Do they provide good advice about the “value” of repairing an older or less expensive model? If you are not that knowledgeable about machines, will they take the time and trouble to explain problems and concerns in a way you can understand? You are not having a one-night stand with your repair shop, you want a committed relationship. Make sure you are as happy with their service as they are to get your business!
  4. Check online reviews, BUT, take this information with a grain of salt. You never know how reliable it actually is.

My favorite dealer on the Eastside? Hands down, Sewing Machines Service  in Renton wins my heart for friendly, courteous, knowledgeable, fast service. They totally rock, and if you haven’t tried them and your machine needs a tune-up, get your bad self on down there and see Cevin. You’ll be very glad you did.

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen

Vintage or new for you?


I am team vintage all the way. For sewing machines, that is. I totally and completely double-heart my 36 year-old Bernina 830. That machine has been with  me longer than my husband! And it is WAY easier to feed and care for, I might add! 🙂 A new needle every 8-10 hours, some cleaning and dusting after every garment, a drop of oil now and again, a yearly physical tune-up, and my little baby continues to just hum along without a single complaint.

Look how cute she is – all eager to have the next sewing student sit down and take her for a spin. She won’t let them down. The stitches will be balanced and smooth, the tension even, the adjustments simple and easy – she is a real workhorse. She has sewn everything from my firstborn’s Swiss organdy christening gown to 48 linear feet of vinyl cushion covers for my nephew’s coffee shop. Without a single complaint, thank you very much!


Let me introduce her younger sister, only about 15 years old (20 maybe?). This is  my daily machine now, since I have been spoiled by the “needle down” button and the automatic buttonhole function. Especially on my DH’s shirts – cuz the likelihood of me getting 13 buttonholes exactly the same length is nil. Zero. Zip. Nada.


How about you? Do you prefer the newer, computerized machines with all the fancy embroidery and other functions? Have you bought a new, inexpensive model that is working well for your needs? Did you score a great machine at a garage sale or thrift shop? Or, like me, are you still sewing on vintage model machines that work beautifully? I’d love to hear from you!

Happy sewing!

Maris Olsen